Beauty, media and society
I woke up early today morning. Not really having anything to do, I stood in front of a mirror And looked at myself. After 2 minutes, I got bored. I shrugged, fluffed my hair and then proceeded to read something. Perfectly Normal.
However, if my life was a television ad, I would still be sitting in front of the mirror and moping about how I’m dark-skinned after which my extremely fair roommate would lend me her fairness cream.
And lo and behold, 15 days later, I would suddenly turn extremely fair, get the confidence to wear chic clothing and then strut on the roads like it’s my personal runway and get appreciative glances from my male counterparts.
Today, I would like to raise an important question, which may have irked all of us at some point in time-What is beauty?
According to many, being fair is equivalent to being beautiful. It is estimated that that four in 10 women, and now many men, in India think they are too dark to be attractive. That, of course, is something that has been drilled into their heads not only by their narrow-minded counterparts, but also by the innumerable advertisements. Endorsed by high profile celebrities, these products promise to make you fair. But, more disturbingly, they also promise to make you lovely in the process.
And that is where the problem lies. Fairness starts getting equated with beauty, happiness, confidence and success. A personal quality which is a result of your nature and personality is made to appear as an extension of your skin tone.
The ads portray dark skinned girls depressed with failures in love, career and life in general. And after they apply the expensive cream-they land movie roles, air hostess jobs and of course, a husband.
According to some, being thin is equivalent to being beautiful. Seeing the reed-thin models in advertisements and on the runway , the size-zero fad popularized by the likes of Kareena Kapoor are all contributing to women, especially young girls develop an unhealthy body image.
Many of us girls, including me, think twice before eating something extra for fear of weight gain. Many young girls develop eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia because of these unnatural standards set by celebrities and the media.
Dove launched its famous ‘Campaign for Real Beauty’ after conducting a global survey. The survey confirmed that the definition of beauty had become impossible to attain. Dove found that only 2 % of women described themselves as beautiful and, when it came to body image and weight, women from all countries were unsatisfied with themselves.
Leaf through a magazine, search the internet or open up the television and you’ll see these standards or, what we call today as the ‘beauty norms’. What we see in these ads are women and men who seem to be ‘physically perfect’. Fair, flawless skin, 36-24-36 body statistics, shiny locks that becomes instantly perfect the minute you comb through it with your fingers, and pearly whites that cannot be stained by coffee and the like. These are the typical beauty norms for women. On the other hand, media portrays perfect men as guys who have toned muscular body builds, perfect abs that leave women drooling upon their wake, and natural, beautiful hair that can be styled even without the help of hair products. These types of persons are often the spokespersons of outer beauty. What we want to know is why media chooses these kinds of people to represent the masses, when hardly 5% of the entire population look like them?
Mass media, through these certain types of ads, doesn’t really promote inner beauty. They are much more concerned with the superficial type – the outward appearance. What it does to the youth is it limits and confines us to these standards. If we don’t conform to it, we would be on the margins of the social pyramids and for most, that’s a fate that would even be worse than death itself. The widespread usage of Skin lightening treatments, hair extensions, coloured contact lenses, “weight management programs” all are testimony to this fact.
However, to say that all types of superficial beauty don’t promote inner magnificence is admittedly, biased. There are celebrities that use their fame and beauty to inspire people to love them for who they are. Celebrities such as Tyra Banks and Sophia Bush are two representatives of many more. However, they are the exception and sadly, not the rule.
We all can agree that mass media can be a powerful tool for influencing the mind of the public. And I believe that if used to the advantage of the greater good, they can do wonders in transforming this society into a much more pleasant one – one that cannot be divided by race, color, weight, and height. A society where there are no beauty stereotypes and each and every one of us can find the real definition of beauty inside us, so that we can, in turn, inspire other people to do the same. After all, true beauty is meant for inspiring, not pleasing.
I conclude by quoting Audrey Hepburn, often considered the most beautiful woman of her times.
“The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mode but the true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives the passion that she shows. The beauty of a woman grows with the passing years.”